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Pleasantly Surprising Finds on the Future of Education from a Former Homeschooling Mom

I went into my research on this topic with skepticism – being a former Homeschool mom (he completed his schooling/graduated, it wasn’t anything fatal) and an artist – preferring tactile, tangible life over this new fangled digital one – I was expecting to fuel my pre-determined judgements about the downfall of man through the (further) crumbling of our Education System. After all, our children are the future – for better or worse. However! I’m actually super excited about where the future of education is heading – potentially… if we do it right.

Like most things at the beginning of a new age, there will be some mistakes and fumbling around while humanity learns to function well in a new way of living. A decade or generation may go by while we figure out the positive and negative effects of these changes and make corrections where necessary, but all in all – it looks promising! Just… squint your eyes a little. Think of it like learning a new language – you wouldn’t speak it fluently in the first day.

Technology is here to stay, whether we like it or not, and it’s only going to become more and more integral to the way we live – educating our children and ourselves included. So let’s not fight the beast or deny its existence, rather let’s learn to tame it and make it do our bidding! *maniacal laughter*

Sure, there may be studies that show that the notification sound of a smartphone causes a dopamine release and effects the human brain in a way similar to cocaine, and even the mere presence of a smartphone reduces our ability to focus. Or that one teacher’s experiment showed that in a single hour-long class period, the average student is interrupted forty-five times by Social Media notifications (that’s a lot of crack), and that tech devices are actually engineered to be as addictive as possible, but hey! Let’s look at some of the positives. I do have more negatives I want to touch on, but I’ll sprinkle those throughout the rest of the article, because who doesn’t like an emotional roller-coaster?

I talked to a teacher friend of mine and she mentioned how much easier it is to control her rowdy class of middle-schoolers now that she can operate her slideshow from her smartphone as she wanders around her class instead of being shackled to a projector at the front of the room like before. Technology is actually making it easier for her to engage her students on a one-on-one basis. She said that parents are also much more involved and up to date on grades and progress because of having online access to their child’s learning profile, instead of having to wait on quarterly report cards. This, coupled with “Adaptive Learning Tools”, creates the grounds for “No Child Left Behind” – but for real this time. If parents could see grades slipping early on and what topic started causing that decline, these gaps in learning could be caught and addressed before snowballing into a crisis of non-comprehension, resulting in being shuffled through to the next grade without having a firm grasp on what they’re currently being taught.

Adaptive Learning Tools – this is where it gets exciting. ALT’s take real-time data collection, automatic responses, and redirection – based on the learner’s choices – and then actually respond to their interactions, automatically providing the student with individualized support – teaching them what they need to learn, specifically based on that collected information, instead of providing one path of learning for all students. We know people think and function differently, yet we still try to force them all to learn new information in one, uniform way.

This would also take the element of shame out of learning. When people fall behind the rest of their class, because of learning differences or any other reason, there is an element of condemnation, at least from one’s self, if not from their peers, parents, or even teachers as well. When we feel shame, it shuts down our ability to learn and change. I really need to start citing my sources for these facts. Crap. I’m learning! Don’t shame me.

Adaptive Learning Tools would allow students to learn at their own pace, in a corporate setting. This also helps address the student/teacher ratio. So many classes have such a large number of students it’s impossible for a single teacher to give each individual learner the attention and direction they may need to make sure they are grasping concepts and not slipping through the cracks. If everyone has their own curriculum, tailor-made for their level and learning style, the teacher is then free to engage in a more one-on-one help basis as needed. And if these ALT’s are correcting the work in real time, then we are also freeing up the amount of personal time teachers have to spend correcting papers, etc.

There’s also the idea of going full-on virtual school. Let’s be honest, some teachers are… not all that great. And some are not terribly passionate about their work. But man, some are just magic at it. What if we only learned from teachers who were on fire with their subject and were equally as gifted in communicating it? What would that do for our education? What if, instead of having 100,000 math teachers that we offer an abysmal income to – we had 100 math teachers that we paid a wage that reflects their actual value – that truly honored their contribution to our communities? What?! Crazy, right? With technology, those 100 math teachers could teach an infinite number of classes that reach the entire (internet connected) world!

Surprisingly pleasant finds on the future of education from a former homeschooling mom

Our teachers, at least here in the U.S., are treated pretty poorly and terribly disrespected in my opinion. We barely pay them a living wage, yet expect them to immaculately sculpt the future generations of our country – with their hands figuratively tied behind their backs in regards to how we allow them to engage our children and the restricting guidelines put on them by the education system. In my perfect world, educators would be seen for the immense value they bring to humanity and the vital work they do would be recognized and compensated. In that same world, there would also be a revision of curriculum and what we’re actually teaching our K-12 citizens – but that’s probably a whole different post.

Think about the effects on our children even – if we sent them to school for 8 hours of their day to be taught by educators that feel valued, heard, and honored – as opposed to people that are run down, exhausted, and taken for granted. Even the best teachers with the purest hearts eventually feel the fatigue caused by our current system. I digress.

Virtual school means fewer teachers, which equals more value placed on the ones we do have. And while that may sound harsh, like teachers would be out of work – from a value and quality standpoint, we would be keeping the teachers that are the best at their subject. I would want to learn from the best, if I had the choice. I would want my children to learn from the best. Those who have a true passion for teaching would either be the best, or be motivated to become the best. The rest would be released to find what they are truly passionate about. It’s kind of a win/win.

I know I promised you more negatives, but this is already longer than I intended, so I’ll leave you with this: You would think, with the introduction of The Google Magics, that our education would be more complete as we have access to entire worlds of knowledge – however, teachers are finding that with Google comes Copy and Paste and our kids can’t form complete thoughts for themselves… or at times, complete sentences and reading comprehension is going down the toilet. So that’s fun. Also, text speak is changing the English language… and I don’t think it’s for the better. These are some of those growing pains I mentioned – but, we’ll figure this out. Humans are amazing.

Surprisingly pleasant finds on the future of education from a former homeschooling mom
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